The 19th July seems like a long time ago now, but we remain humbled that so many made the effort to come despite the rather damp weather. Folk travelled from far and near to visit: one couple walked the half-mile to reach us in the rain; another couple journeyed up from north London for the day! A full spread of ages, from teens to octogenarians, and of people from the fringes of society to the pinnacle of establishment were present. There were many important conversations, and for some, moments of epiphany, where a dawning understanding lights a face and the world has suddenly changed for the better. Rather like The Epiphany.
James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle, not only gave over his entire day to us, but travelled up from an important House of Lords debate specially to be here, taking an active interest in all the developments of the last year, and making himself available to everyone who wanted to talk. His commitment to us, especially as an extra-parochial entity, outside all diocesan structures but still a part of the Church of England, remains both important and encouraging.
Not the least valiant were the Reiver Arts ladies who, in their leaking gazebo, continued to work and demonstrate in appalling conditions, soaked to the skin and kept warm only by cups of hot tea. But everyone who set up stall was affected by the rain.
A fundamental part of our being together is fellowship and hospitality. The provision of free food and drink is therefore a central element of our offering. Thanks to all who contributed to the feast enjoyed by everyone.
Worship is at the heart of our celebration of the gift of life and land. Thankfully there was enough room under canvas and polytunnel to shelter everyone during the open-air service.
Music, too, is an important part of the joy of life. Many who came found themselves playing, or singing, or joining in, or just listening to traditional folk tunes or home-written songs. Probably few expected to be doing so before they arrived.
All of those who were involved in demonstrating, and many who were visiting, have, in some sense, committed themselves to be a part of something that, as yet, remains largely invisible, more an aspiration and a vision. But their very presence gives the vision reality, tangibility. It is a dream for a community where all are welcomed and valued, can participate and learn, can give and encourage, centred around prayer and the land. Many of these people would not describe themselves as Christians, and yet they have found a sense of belonging in this ancient but new outcrop of Church.
Here are some pictures of the day.